Please help! I need your advice.

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Forum topic by Larry_S posted 06-18-2012 07:26 AM 2311 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 1589 days

06-18-2012 07:26 AM

Topic tags/keywords: purchase tools advice help question

I am just starting out with woodworking, no experience and have done like one high school project 35+ years ago. I really could use the advice of the experienced woodworkers before purchasing tools. I watched a video on youtube that gave a list of tools to purchase for beginners. Combination square, tape measure, skill saw, jig saw, block plane, router, cordless drill, Random orbit sander, sanding block, clamps and of course nails, glue etc.
The same video also pointed out that I will want to move into some of the bigger better tools. Band saw, table saw, miter saw, drill press and many others in time.
like most people in these times money is a issue for a start up adventure.
Of course being like most guys in my situation I am dazzled by all the cool power tools.

My Question:

Starting out should I just stick to the above list or maybe substitute some of the above tools right from the beginning that will allow me nicer looking projects and/or are must have. Referring to tools like a table saw, drill press, miter saw,band saw etc.

Thank you for your help

-- Larry, Modesto California

8 replies so far

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7670 posts in 1797 days

#1 posted 06-18-2012 09:03 AM

Some of the answers depend on your goals.

You’ll be sawing wood on probably every project you ever build so don’t skimp on saws. A good circular saw will get your far, a tablesaw will get you a lot farther. Handsaws are nice but you can buy them as you need them.
- Table saw vs. band saw: At some point you’ll come to this dilemma; it boils down to if you’re cutting mostly regular quadrilaterals and circles the tablesaw wins. If you are cutting a lot of irregular shapes or resawing thick lumber the band saw wins. Tablesaws can also do mouldings and cove cuts.
- Jig saws are overrated as beginner tools and too often recommended as a first tool, wait until you know you need one then buy the best Bosch you can afford. Buying a used one is even better.
- Routers are multi-purpose tools, there are so many jigs that extend their use it’s worth buying a good one and eventually several.
- Drills, you’ll probably use a hand drill more often than a drill press but a press sure is nice when you need to drill a straight hole or want to use Forstner bits. Don’t go overboard on a hand drill, just buy a decent one and save up for a good drill press. A cheap drill press is better than no drill press.
- Clamps, you can never have too many… short, med, long, bar, C, spring, all sorts, all sizes, all useful. Buy ‘em as you need ‘em.
- Hand planes, very handy. The more they cost the nicer they generally are to use and the better they perform. But you can get by with inexpensive planes if you are willing to put some elbow grease into flattening/sharpening/etc.
- Squares are good investments and quality versions are money well spent. In the beginning you can get by with carpentry grade squares, I have several varieties of speed squares. You’ll also want a combination square – don’t go cheap on it or it’ll just be an aggravation.
- Sanding: everything has to be sanded. A ROS is very nice but there will be times when you may want a finish or belt sander.
- Workbench: you can get by with whatever in the beginning but eventually you realize that a proper woodworking bench is indispensable.
- Jointer: you’ll want one down the road, they just make you life easier and projects better.


View knotscott's profile


7145 posts in 2793 days

#2 posted 06-18-2012 11:49 AM

Everyone is different, and there are lots of ways to do this correctly. Desire is the key ingredient….with that in place, some how, some way the tools will come. There’s an excellent book and website called the New Woodworker Handbook, by Tom Hintz It gives great hints about setting up a shop, buying, using, and maintaining tools, as well as many woodworking tips.

Most shops are based on a decent table saw (TS), so I’ll suggest that’s a place where many will spend the lion’s share of their time and resources for. If you’ve got the shop space, a full size cast iron saw with a belt drive induction motor is a considerable step up from a plastic and aluminum benchtop or portable jobsite saw. These saws include the old style contractor saws with the outboard motor, new style contractor saws with an inboard motor, hybrid saws, and cabinet saws. Most will run on 110v, but anything from a true 2hp and up will require 220v operation. Good alignment and good blade selection will largely determine the final performance of any TS you get. This article from Rockler should help.

A jigsaw can substitute for a bandsaw (BS) for a good long time until you’re ready. Same is true of a cordless drill for a drill press (DP. My compound miter saw (CMS) sits under a bench most of the time….a well tuned table saw is more accurate on all but very long pieces. A block plane is very handy. Wormil’s suggestion for a work bench or workable surface of some sort is excellent….doesn’t have to be fancy, but you’ll need something.

A decent router is among the most versatile tools in the shop….it can do so many things. Definitely get at least one, preferably that accepts 1/2” shank bits, and buy decent 1/2” shank bits for it whenever possible instead of 1/4” shank (they break alot more easily!)....avoid really cheap bits…they can hurt you and won’t last long….there are good value bits that don’t cost an arm and a leg from MLCS, Woodline, Price Cutter, Grizzly. If you can spend more, look to premium names like Whiteside, Eagle America, Infinity, Freud, Amana. Eventually you’ll probably want a router for hand use, and a bigger more powerful router permanently mounted in a router table. There’s no shortage of good routers….Milwaukee, Hitachi, PC, DW, Makita, Bosch, Triton, Freud, Festool, and Fein are all well regarded….sale prices and/or recons can bring them under $100. Even the newer Craftsman routers get mainly high marks as good value from owners. Be sure to get one that feels good in your hands.

If you plan to work with lots of dimensional lumber (as opposed to sheet goods), you’ll find yourself wanting a jointer and thickness planer. There’s much debate about which to purchase first, but the two working in tandem, combined with your TS are the most efficient way to take rough sawn or uneven lumber down to flat straight square dimensioned pieces that’ll make perfect joints.

You’ll definitely need some clamps. It’s easy to spend $20-$40 per clamp, but it’s not essential that you do… there are also plenty of functional $3-$10 clamps. You’ll eventually decide which you like best, but it doesn’t hurt to start with a few modest F-clamps on sale from Harbor Freight. It’s not exactly a tool snob’s paradise, but you can go home with 6-10 decent “Pittsburg” metal bar clamps for ~ $20 on sale. (I’d avoid the black and orange quick grip clamps from them). Get these or something similar:

Pipe clamps are also handy, but I’ve not found the HF offerings to work as well as the better names like Pony or comparable. You buy the clamp and mate it to 1/2” or 3/4” gas pipe that you source separately, at whatever length you want….generally 2-5 feet is plenty.

My favorites are the parallel clamps…they’re expensive, but so nice:

Study up, learn the tool types, brands, models, and prices, so you’ll know a good deal when you see it. Buying used and refurbed tools can help stretch you budget if the right deals come along. I sure hope you’ll keep us posted from time to time.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View jmos's profile


715 posts in 1787 days

#3 posted 06-18-2012 12:05 PM

+1 for Tom Hintz’s book and website. Aimed at new woodworkers (thus the title) and lots of good information.

I would recommend not going crazy and buying too much stuff all at once. I kind of did this when I started; most of what I bought worked out fine, but there are items I seldom use and items I wish I had bought a different type or style. Buy the tools you find you need as you work through projects, that will give you more time to decide what you want to get, and yo’ll know you really have a real need for them.

Might also want to see if there is another LJ in your area that would be willing to let you into their shops to kick some tires. I’d offer, but as I’m in Jersey, it would be a long trip for you!

-- John

View Zepe's profile


24 posts in 3230 days

#4 posted 06-18-2012 01:29 PM

I agree with John, wait until you’re sure about the equipment you think you want now. My first table saw was a $150 bench top unit from Harbor Freight which I later sold. The point is that it didn’t involve a lot of money and I learned a few things about what I wanted in a table saw. After all, experience is the best teacher. Having said that, there are a few things that everyone needs a variety of like clamps and measuring devices. You can never have too many clamps, rules, pencils and reference materials to name a few.

When you are ready to buy, take you time and look for deals. I bought my Delta 10” contractor saw new for $150. I also buy a lot of my tools factory reconditioned and even there you can get additional deals. I like reconditioned products because for the most part they’ve been completely gone through by the manufacturer before being sold again (at a discounted price) and you get a new tool warranty. Check out places like CPO Outlets.

I can’t emphasize enough, TAKE YOUR TIME! It’s funny to me because we’ll take months trying to decide to buy that new widget, but once we decide to buy it we must have it right now if not sooner.

View SteveL's profile


163 posts in 3185 days

#5 posted 06-18-2012 01:38 PM

When golfing was my hobby, my teacher shared with me the old advice “Drive for show, putt for dough!” I think woodworkers turn that advice on it’s ear, in that we tend to use [power] drive tools for dough (i.e. to make money), but if we really want something to show, it’s the handwork (puttering if you like) that wins the prize. Don’t skimp on your hand tools. You can cut straight lines with an 8” circular saw and a guide clamp. A plunge router and a battery powered drill are nice too, but past that I recommend you spend on quality hand tools and learn how to sharpen and use them properly. I do very little sanding on my projects because the wood is already smoothed by a plane and a scraper, for example. Hope you enjoy your new hobby, and welcome to LumberJocks!

-- SteveL

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2415 days

#6 posted 06-18-2012 02:22 PM

The tool list that you give would be a general handyman list that most home owners should have around the house anyway for general repairs. Nothing wrong with it.

You really cannot make a blanket statement of what tools you need. It depends on the projects you plan on. It depends on how you plan on working. Almost none of those tools would be useful other than the square and measuring tape if you wanted to get into timber framing or turning.

Lets look at it the other way. If you start with:

A few chisels of different widths
Crosscut saw
Rip saw
A fine detail saw
Turning saw of some type
Marking knife
Marking gauge
A plane
A spokeshave
A drill and drill bits
A router (or other grooving tool)
A few clamping devices or materials to make some
A sharpening device

With these, there is really nothing that you couldn’t build. You could actually get by with less. You can also use these to make what you are lacking (work surface/bench). There are tools that can make it faster but nothing that you couldn’t do with these.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4403 posts in 3377 days

#7 posted 06-18-2012 02:26 PM

All of the above, and I would add that ya don’t wanna get fooled by “pretty”, stay with good quality power tools while keeping in mind that some of the brand names have been substantially downgraded in quality in recent years.
Used power tools can be a bargain if you’re carefull.
Good blades for any cutting device can make a big difference. All hand tools that cut something need to be sharpened. Learn how.
Find a mentor in your area.


View Arvid's profile


17 posts in 2428 days

#8 posted 06-18-2012 03:13 PM

If you’re looking to get started in woodworking, pick a project your interested in and get started. Buy or borrow the tools you’ll need to finish the project. I mooched plenty of tools from my neighbors and learned which ones I needed and which ones I didn’t. Now I have a garage full and my neighbors borrow from me. I’ve bought some cheap tools before, but stay away from cheap bits/blades (its dangerous, trust me). Good luck!

-- Arvid, Washington DC

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